The day industrialization is born
The modern world began with a simple sentence: “Can you save me the cost of 500 horses?” On a rainy morning in 1711, Thomas Newcomen stands in his workshop and can hardly believe his eyes. A representative of a large mining company from Warwickshire, England, stands before the blacksmith and ironmonger. In his hand: a very lucrative contract for Newcomen— for the development of a new machine that can pump groundwater from a tunnel deep underground. The only condition: It must be cheaper than the previous solution, which required several hundred horses to pump the water. The only problem: Given the state of the equipment at the time, it is an almost impossible task. But in 1712, Newcomen does succeed in his ambitious undertaking. Using the first functioning steam engine, he operates a water pump and is able to drain an entire mine shaft dry. This technological milestone propels humanity into a new era. Industrialization spreads across Europe, but America benefits the most. “Without the steam engine, America would be like a giant Third World country,” says Yale University historian Paul Kennedy. Why? The U.S. was a vast country without infrastructure. Only the achievements of industrialization could enable it to modernize— railways connected east with west, steamboats boosted export of goods. Result: an incomparable economic boom. The country that was still fighting for independence from England at the end of the 18th century surpasses stagnant Europe just a few decades after the introduction of the steam engine. During World War I, every second industrial plant was found in America.